September 24, 2020 : By Garold Smith - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
The paralegal program at Liberty University School of Law has been preparing graduates to enter the legal field since 2011, and the program has seen significant growth since, increasing to over 1,500 students during the 2019-20 academic year.
The demand for paralegals continues, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the need for these professionals will grow by 10 percent by 2029, a rate higher than the average for all other occupations.
Liberty’s program is offered completely online, allowing students from around the country to maintain their jobs, preserve time with family, and remain involved in their community.
“The bachelor’s degree assists the students in obtaining the tools needed to serve in the paralegal profession and may assist them in meeting qualifications required in certain jurisdictions for the paralegal community,” said Tony Robertson, administrative dean for online education at the School of Law. “It also allows the students to pursue a master’s degree such as the Juris Master’s, or a terminal degree such as the Juris Doctor, should the student decide to continue their studies or go to law school. The associate degree gives graduates the opportunity to become paralegals and work in the paralegal community, and it opens doors for students to further their education in the future. The certificate immerses students in paralegal studies and allows them the opportunity to quickly gain the tools they would need in order to serve in the paralegal profession.”
Cheryl Burghart, a legal office assistant for the Attorney General in Anchorage, Alaska, will graduate with an associate degree this fall. A few years ago, she sustained a severe head injury during a fall and, despite the challenges she had to overcome, decided to enroll with Liberty University Online Programs because the remote nature of the program gave her access to faculty, materials, and curriculum regardless of location.
“Liberty’s program was an opportunity for me to see how I would interact with the (study of) law and see how much I could retain,” she said. “Pursuing the associate degree has given me the opportunity to achieve something that I thought would be valuable to me and prepare me for entering law school.”
Burghart has spent the last 20 years in retail management, but because of the legal knowledge she has gained, she was able to make a career switch.
“I was hired in my current role based upon what I have learned at Liberty,” Burghart said. “What I was taught in my classes is literally what I have experienced in the work environment. I’m very grateful to Liberty for everything that I learned that helped me get this job.”
Her courses included studies on the court system, case law, statutes, and research, as well as the practices of family, criminal, and corporate law.
“All three degree programs really are very focused on assisting an individual in what they will need to know and the skills they will need to have in order to provide assistance to attorneys,” Robertson said. “We focus on the general study of what a paralegal does, on the specific areas of law that they may practice in, and give them an understanding of what they may face in different areas of practice. We also teach them the type of legal writing and citation that is used in the legal profession.”
Like Burghart, students come from a variety of backgrounds with different career experience and goals.
“A paralegal is an important person in the life of a law practice. Some are embarking upon their first career and others are looking at the paralegal profession as a second or even third career,” Robertson said. “We have students who are doing this program to give them the credentials to work in the profession until they are ready to go to law school.”
The faith-based approach to paralegal studies prepares graduates to serve in the legal community as Champions for Christ, teaching them how to apply Christian morals to their work.
“Students may ask, ‘How do I apply my Christian worldview faith and my belief in Jesus in my particular profession?’ so we help them understand and prepare for some of the issues they may face,” Robertson said. “Because work-life balance in the legal profession is a challenge, we help students understand that as Christians we want to do excellent work, but most important we want to be ambassadors for Christ to reach the ultimate goal of hearing ‘well done good and faithful servant.’”
Liberty’s online paralegal degree is ranked the best online paralegal studies program according to BestColleges.com and is in the top four for most affordable online associate degrees in paralegal studies according to AffordableColleges.com.